After a magical run to an NBA title back in July, the Milwaukee Bucks have sputtered out of the gate to start the new season. The reigning champs currently sit at 6-8 through 14 games, but they’ve been without multiple key contributors from last year’s title run for most of the way.
But the Bucks are finally ready to welcome back one of them, as Khris Middleton is set to return to the lineup when Milwaukee hosts the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
The undermanned Bucks have struggled to start the season
After a celebratory offseason in which Milwaukee brought back most of its core from last year’s championship roster, the Bucks were eager to prove they should be the favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the second straight year.
But that hasn’t gone as planned.
Through 14 games this season, the Bucks are 6-8 and currently occupy the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been his typical, brilliant self, but he hasn’t had much help from his supporting cast because — well, they haven’t even been on the court.
Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, and Donte DiVincenzo have all missed time to start the year. The season opener against the Brooklyn Nets was the only game in which Antetokounmpo, Lopez, Middleton, and Holiday all suited up for the Bucks.
They won that game by 23.
It’s not time to panic just yet, but Milwaukee needs to get healthy soon if it wants to avoid losing home court in the playoffs.
Khris Middleton set to return to the court against the Lakers
Middleton was playing well for the Bucks before a positive COVID-19 test knocked him out of the lineup earlier this month. The two-time All-Star has missed the last eight games for Milwaukee, and the team has clearly missed him.
With Middleton watching from home, the Bucks have gone 3-5 in their last eight and have lost three games by double digits.
But the reigning champs can finally breathe a sigh of relief, as Middleton is back practicing with his teammates and is expected to play against the Lakers on Wednesday night, per ESPN. The shooting guard won’t play 30-plus minutes in his first game back, but the Bucks will just be happy to see him out on the floor again.
With five straight home games coming up on the schedule, it’s time for Milwaukee to make a push back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
A much-needed boost incoming
The Bucks probably didn’t expect to have a losing record halfway through the month of November, but here they are 14 games into the season. It’s not all their fault, of course, as five different key players have already missed at least five games.
But Milwaukee is slowly starting to get back to full strength. Holiday and Portis have now been back in the lineup for a few games, and Middleton is set to join them on Wednesday night. With Antetokounmpo playing at an MVP level yet again this year, Middleton won’t even have to put up his 20 points per game right away for the Bucks to find their footing.
By the time Lopez and DiVincenzo eventually return from their injuries, this team will start to look like the title contender it expects to be by the end of the season.